Alan Fraser Houston
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Credit Card Guide

5 Great Ways to Increase Remote Working Productivity

Now is the time to review your software and apps and make sure that you have systems that help productivity, not hinder it. 


Jeff Broth, Contributor
January 5, 2021

more than half of employees reporting frustrations with their remote work solutions, now is a good time to think about getting the best software and apps in to help your team stay productive.

Remember, too, that many of your people will find working at home a very lonely experience and so things like video conferencing can help alleviate the mental health impact of a lockdown.

Let’s look at some of the products that are available to help you stay in touch and remain effective no matter what 2021 throws at you!

Workflow boards

One of the things that many people have reported is difficulty in keeping motivated and understanding what needs to happen and when.

When you’re in an office, it’s easy to simply lean across the desk and ask what is going on. But what happens when your team is all working remotely?

Using Kanban boards like Trello and Asana allows you to posts jobs, tasks, and subtasks and then allocate them to individual staff members or team so that everyone knows where they are and what still needs doing.

Remote access software

Remote access software can have some real benefits for users across the organisation and doesn’t need to be confined to your IT helpdesk.

Modern remote working can give users a virtual desktop, which is the same wherever they log on. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also increase security.

Remote access software can also include functionality that enables video conferencing, chat functions, shared word processing, and file sharing, along with resources for troubleshooting in a pinch.

If you’d like to find out more about what it can do for you, check the best options in this excellent remote access software review by Neil Patel.

Remote shared storage

Many companies rely upon having drives readily available to all staff, and when you’re all working in the same office, this is a simple matter. But when your team is spread out, then you need to think about organizing remote storage.

Google Drive and Dropbox are probably the most well-known offerings, but there are many more. They all provide you with the ability to have shared drives that are accessible based on your own organization’s security protocol.

Remote storage is a very competitive area, so prices have dropped over the last few years. So in many cases, you are better off subscribing to a best-in-class cloud storage solution (especially if it includes remote access desktops as above) rather than upgrading your on-premise servers.

Business-class video conferencing

For many businesses, this is one area where they just had to get a solution in place quickly so everyone could carry on working. But it really is worth choosing a business-class video conferencing system.

Having a better system makes life easier for your staff, but it also portrays a professional image to your customers and suppliers.

Free systems are great, but they will always come with limitations. Zoom, for instance, limits calls to 45 minutes on its free version. Other free solutions reduce video quality.

With paid solutions, the cost for a group subscription is often very reasonable when compared to the cost of losing even one customer.

Collaboration and sharing tools

When you can just pass files and papers across a desk, life is easy. But if you’re miles away from your co-workers, contractors, and customers, how can you possibly collaborate effectively?

Many of the really good systems bundle in storage, video conferencing, Kanban boards and collaboration tools that help your teams act like teams rather than a collection of dispersed individuals.

Obviously, the big player here is Microsoft. But you can get excellent results with apps like Zoho Connect, Winio, and Wire. If you only really want chat capability, then look at Slack.

Take advantage of trials

What works for some people may not work for you and your company. But the good news is that pretty much every system mentioned here has some form of free trial.

The best advice is to take the developers up on their offer and test these solutions out. Get feedback from your employees and take into account how easy the apps are to use, the support available, and of course, the annual cost.

Don’t be swayed by attractive-sounding initial reductions. If the system is good, you’ll be using it for a long time. It is much more important to get the right features for you rather than buying something that isn’t well-suited to the task because the developer was offering a half-price sale.


Budgeting, Credit Card Guide

How to Manage Your First Salary and Grow Your Savings

After months spent scouring career boards and hours of networking, interviewing and submitting applications, landing your first job is a major relief—and a big accomplishment. It also brings new responsibilities as you learn how to manage your first salary, budget for your lifestyle and develop the smart savings habits that will serve you your entire life.

As you prepare for your first day, it’s critical to start thinking about how much of your paycheck you should save.

To help you find the answer, financial experts provide tips on how to manage your first salary, offer strategies to help you save money at your first job and explain how to adjust your savings as your career flourishes.

Learning how to manage your first salary can make a major difference as you advance through the rest of your career.

Save money at your first job: The case for starting now

You may feel intimidated by the commitment to save money at your first job, especially if you’re carrying student debt or feeling like you aren’t making quite enough. Joy Liu, head trainer at personal finance company Financial Gym, certainly felt that way.

“When I got my first job, I made $35,000 a year,” Liu says. “It was easy to just throw my hands up and say, ‘I can’t save right now on this salary.’” But she urges young savers to reconsider.

“Looking back, with the knowledge that I have now, I could have made it work if I knew that saving was something I needed to do,” she says.

In fact, saving money at your first job will put you in a better place when you’re a seasoned professional, Liu says. When you deposit some of your paycheck into a savings account, you’ll earn interest on the balance. Your now larger balance will itself earn interest (you’ve got compound interest to thank for that). The earlier in your career you start to save, the more time you’ll have for your money to grow exponentially.

When learning how to save money at your first job, it's easier to build good habits without large financial commitments.

Saving money at your first job might also make sense because you likely aren’t juggling the large financial commitments you’ll face later in life.

“You may have student loans, you may have some credit card debt, but you most likely don’t have a mortgage, which is a huge lifelong commitment,” says Ashley Dixon, a CFP® and lead planner at financial planning firm Gen Y Planning.

Determine how much of your paycheck you should save

You now know you need to sock away part of your earnings from your new job, but how much of your paycheck should you save?

While your specific savings rate will depend on your goals and circumstances, Dixon recommends saving 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay. If that’s too challenging, start with 10 percent, Liu says.

If you don’t think you have enough to save, review your essential expenses, like rent, student loan payments, utilities and groceries. Save from whatever cash is “left over” each month, and see how close you can get to that 10 to 20 percent goal.

When determining how much of your paycheck you should save, you might initially find that there isn’t enough cash left over. If that’s the case, create a budget to keep your spending and savings on track, or review your existing budget to see which unnecessary expenses you can cut.

“Being mindful of where you’re spending your money and keeping track of spending in real time is the hardest part and is where people struggle the most,” Liu says. “But knowing where your money is at any given point is how you stay on track, whether that’s creating a spreadsheet or using a budgeting app.”

How much of your paycheck should you save? Experts recommend starting with 10 to 20 percent.

If you’re not able to hit these savings benchmarks right away, don’t sweat it. The key is to save what you can, and you can gradually work to increase your savings over time.

Define your savings goals to gain momentum

To help you get in a groove saving money at your first job, define exactly what you’re saving for. Need some ideas?

When learning how to manage your first salary, Liu recommends prioritizing an emergency fund. A top reason you need an emergency fund is the stability and peace of mind that this stockpile can offer, Dixon says. Should you face an unexpected expense like a costly car repair or lose your job in the future, you’ll then have a backup fund to dip into.

“If you’re young and single, you should try to strive to save six months of living expenses in your emergency fund as a guideline, but that can be different for every individual depending on where they live and family situations,” Dixon says.

Consider your emergency fund one of multiple savings accounts, or buckets. “You want to have all of these different buckets of money set aside for different goals, and move and prioritize how much money you save for each goal based on their priority level to you and what is realistic within your budget,” Liu says.

As you learn how to manage your first salary, don't forget to build up an emergency fund.

In addition to your emergency fund bucket for life’s surprises, you can also save money at your first job and contribute to other funds that align with your financial goals, like a car fund to help you buy new wheels or a vacation fund to save up for a getaway.

However you define your goals, the important thing is that they’re clear to you and that you’re actively saving money at your first job. This positive momentum can guide smart savings habits even once your first day of work is a distant memory.

Use automation to make saving a habit

Even with the best savings goals and intentions, it can be easy to get tripped up. Enter automation. By automating your savings, you reduce your chances of overspending or skipping savings altogether.

There are a couple ways you can use automation to help manage your first salary. You could set up a weekly or a monthly automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account, Liu suggests. Or, you could ask if your company’s payroll department allows you to split your direct deposit, sending some of each paycheck into your checking account and some into savings.

Choose a high-yield savings account

Another consideration when learning how to manage your first salary is where you’ll keep your hard-earned funds. Many people opt to open a savings account from the same bank where they have their checking account, but Dixon says that’s not always the best approach.

“You want to look for a high-yield savings account,” she says.

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By keeping your money in a high-yield savings account, it will earn a higher-than-average interest rate. Remember compound interest? The higher your interest rate, the more your money will be able to grow over time.

As you do your research to find the right savings account for saving money at your first job, Dixon recommends comparing interest rates from different banks.

“Typically, online banks offer higher interest rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks,” Dixon says. “Most online banks don’t have an actual storefront for you to visit so they’re saving overhead costs and are able to pass that interest down to the customer.”

In addition to interest rates, pay attention to fees and required minimum balances, says Liu. Fees can eat away at interest earnings, and you may not want to worry about keeping a minimum balance when you’ve just landed your first job and are gradually ramping up your savings.

Lastly, consider your access to your funds. “Because your savings account is separate from your checking account, consider how long it may take to get your funds,” Dixon says.

If you’re looking for a high-yield savings account, the Discover Online Savings Account has no minimum balance requirement and no fees1, so you can turn your savings from your first job into something meaningful—without any hassle or stress.

Keep retirement in mind

As you manage your first salary, saving for emergencies and other short- and medium-term goals is essential. But you also want to start saving for retirement, even if that seems like ages away. Thanks again to compound interest, time is on your side, Dixon says.

“When you’re in your 20s, you don’t see the large effect compound interest will have because you are just starting your savings; all you see is the money sitting there,” she says. “But when you get to your 60s, that account’s going to glow because it’s been growing over time.”

In addition to contributing to your savings account, enroll in your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan and take advantage of employer matches if they’re offered, Liu says. Your 401(k) contributions automatically come out of your paycheck, so you won’t even have time to miss the funds.

How much you save for retirement depends on your goals and age, but when it comes to benchmarks for 401(k) contributions, many personal finance experts recommend saving 10 to 15 percent of your income, according to the Financial Gym. That said, be careful to not overfill your retirement “bucket” and run the risk of locking away money you may need in the short term for your emergency fund or other priorities.

Adjust your savings strategy as your career flourishes

As you advance in your career, you’ll likely see an uptick in your take-home pay. After a bonus, promotion or new job, your first inclination may be to spend more because you’re earning more.

“You don’t want to create a lifestyle that you can’t keep up or maintain,” Dixon says.

As your career evolves, the answer to "How much of your paycheck should you save?" will naturally change too.

While you deserve to celebrate your career wins, determine how you can maintain (or even accelerate) your savings progress as you increase your earning potential.

If you’re earning more and you’re maintaining a manageable cost of living, Dixon recommends putting extra income toward your 401(k) or another savings goal—like going from renter to homeowner—rather than spending.

If you keep these tips on how to save money at your first job—and beyond—in mind, you’ll gain financial security and be prepared to hit all or your financial goals.

Now that you know how to manage your first salary, learn how to negotiate your next one. Here are four tips to successfully negotiate your salary as your career grows.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

1 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge.


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The Average Salary of a Surgeon

The Average Salary of a Surgeon – SmartAsset

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Surgery is a prestigious field that requires a high degree of skill, dedication and hard work of its members. Not surprisingly, surgeons’ compensation reflects this fact, as the average salary of a surgeon was $255,110 in 2018. This figure can vary slightly depending on where you live and the type of institution at which you work. Moreover, the path to becoming a surgeon is long and involves a substantial amount of schooling, which might result in student loan debt.

Average Salary of a Surgeon: The Basics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a surgeon was $255,110 per year in 2018. That comes out to an hourly wage of $122.65 per hour assuming a 40-hour work week – though the typical surgeon works longer hours than that. Even the lowest-paid 10% of surgeons earn $94,960 per year, so the chances are high that becoming a surgeon will result in a six-figure salary. The average salary of a surgeon is higher than the average salary of other doctors, with the exception of anesthesiologists, who earn roughly as much as surgeons.

The top-paying state for surgeons is Nebraska, with a mean annual salary of $287,890. Following Nebraska is Maine, New Jersey, Maryland and Kansas. Top-paying metro area for surgeons include Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN; Winchester, WV-VA; Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY; New Orleans-Metairie, LA; and Bowling Green, KY.

Where Surgeons Work

According to BLS data, most of the surgeons in the U.S. work in physicians’ offices, where the mean annual wage for surgeons is $265,920. Second to physicians’ offices for the highest concentration of surgeons are General Medical and Surgical Hospitals, where the mean annual wage for surgeons is $225,700. Colleges, universities and professional schools are next up. There, surgeons earn an annual mean wage of $175,410. A smaller number of surgeons are employed in outpatient Care Centers, where the mean annual wage for surgeons is $277,670. Last up are special hospitals. There, the mean annual wage for surgeons is $235,770.

Becoming a Surgeon

You may have heard that the cost of becoming a doctor, including the cost of medical school and other expenses, has soared. Aspiring surgeons must first get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, preferably in a scientific field like biology.

Then comes the Medical College Acceptance Test (MCAT) and applications to medical schools. The application process can get expensive quickly, as many schools require in-person interviews without reimbursing applicants for travel expenses.

If accepted, you’ll then spend four years in medical school earning your M.D. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’ll almost certainly enter a residency program at a hospital. According to a 2018 survey by Medscape, the average medical resident earns a salary of $59,300, up $2,100 from the previous year. General surgery residents earned slightly less ($58,800), but more specialized residents like those practicing neurological surgery earned more ($61,800).

According to the American College of Surgeons, surgical residency programs last five years for general surgery. But some residency programs are longer than five years. For example, thoracic surgery and pediatric surgery both require residents to complete the five-year general surgery residency, plus two additional years of field-specific surgical residency.

Surgeons must also be licensed and certified. The fees for the licensing exam are the same regardless as specialty, but the application and exam fees for board certification vary by specialty. Maintenance of certification is also required. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it qualification. The American Board of Surgery requires continuing education, as well as an exam at 10-year intervals.

Bottom Line

Surgeons earn some of the highest salaries in the country. However, the costs associated with becoming a surgeon are high, and student debt may eat into surgeons’ high salaries for years. The costs of maintaining certification and professional insurance are significant ongoing costs associated with being a surgeon.

Tips for Forging a Career Path

  • Your salary dictates a lot of your financial life, such as how much you can afford to pay in rent and the slice of your paycheck that goes to taxes. However, there are some principles that apply no matter your income bracket, like the importance of an emergency fund and a well-funded retirement account.
  • Whether you’re earning a six-figure surgeon’s salary or living on a more modest income, it’s smart to work with a financial advisor to manage your money. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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